Kuching: “The expansion of this seminary is a sign of hope, and our gathering in prayer today is a manifestation of our great trust in the Lord,” said Cardinal Renato Martino during Mass on 15th June 2009, a momentous day for St Peter’s College, the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Kuching.
Cardinal Renato Martino currently the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace arrived from Rome for the official opening and blessing of the new wing to the Seminary together with the Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Archbishop John Ha, Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung, Bishop Cornelius Piong, Bishop Dominic Su and Bishop Joseph Hii.
With this, the 29 year old seminary reached another milestone with the addition of 30 rooms for students, a bigger library, modern larger kitchen, dining room, IT/Computer station and staff living quarters.
The extension was necessary to meet the needs of the seminary (31 seminarians from East Malaysia and 1 seminarian from Melaka-Johor Diocese) which is hoped will continue to grow in time. With the dedication and initiative of the rector Fr Richard Ng, this building project took 3 years to complete at a cost of approximately 2.5 million with help from the Society of Peter the Apostle Penang Fund and generous benefactors.
Cardinal Martino was the Apostolic Delegate at the time of the seminary’s inception and had actively supported Archbishop Emeritus Peter Chung in setting up and building the present premise. He had blessed and opened the student block in 1986. It was therefore particularly significant and an honour for the local church to have Cardinal Martino back in Kuching again, 23 years later to bless and open this new block.
The programme of celebration began a day earlier on 14 June with the Cardinal together with the Apostolic Delegate and Archbishop John Ha celebrating the evening mass of Corpus Christi at the Cathedral. In his homily Cardinal Martino said the Eucharist binds us together in one faith and makes us members of God’s family and help us to know and love our Lord more and more each day.
The following day the Cardinal visited the Carmelite Monastery and Franciscan Sister’s Generalate, Kuching and later he addressed the students and staff of St Peter’s College.
In the evening, there was a special Eucharistic celebration and blessing of the new wing accompanied by traditional gongs and drum beats and followed by a thanksgiving dinner for invited guests.
In his homily, Cardinal Martino said: “What a joy it is for me to be with you today, and to celebrate the Holy Mass in this very special place which holds such an important place in my heart. I was a strong advocate for the building of this seminary, and I am delighted to see its expansion, which indicates that vocations to the priesthood are increasing, and that, ultimately, the Gospel is being proclaimed to more and more people.”
On 16 June, the Cardinal celebrated Mass in the Cathedral after which he gave a presentation on the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
“The encyclical proclaims charity as the very essence of God… Social doctrine is located wholly within, and not at the margins of the Christian proclamation that God is love.” he said.
He further added “The Compendium sees in the Christian lay faithful the principal agents for bringing about an integral humanism in solidarity.”
After the talk, he autographed copies of the Compendium for the faithful.
Meanwhile, the seminary took opportunity of the occasion to organise a refresher course for its alumni from 16-26 June.
After 29 years of existence, St Peter’s College has produced close to 70 priests and 2 bishops. The topic for the 2-week refresher course was on relations with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Malaysia.
The first week of the course covered the various aspects of the Islamic faith in Malaysia. This was to ensure a better understanding to foster mutual respect.
The 2nd week of the course had a more pastoral emphasis with clergy sharing their practical experiences from which a pastoral plan was drawn up to face current challenges.
There was also a 2 day input on “Church and Internet” by Michael So, an invited speaker from Taiwan and secretary of Signis Asia, the Asian counterpart of the World Catholic Association for Communications.
St Peter’s College Seminary, the only major seminary for East Malaysia presently has 31 seminarians from East Malaysia and 1 seminarian from Melaka-Johor Diocese under the guidance of three full-time formators and more than a dozen teaching staff.